Among all your organs, your skin is the largest. It shields your body from the elements, regulates body temperature, and fights bacteria. Like other organs,
it's susceptible to cancer. Annual skin cancer diagnoses in the US exceed those of every other cancer combined.
When caught early, most cases of skin cancer are curable, which is why your dermatologist appointment should be among your top priorities.
Dermatologists are doctors who specialize in treating conditions affecting the skin, nails, and hair. These doctors receive three years of medical training related to skin care after completing medical school and an internship. Most dermatologists attend to a wide variety of skincare issues, but some specialize in surgery, cosmetics, and pediatrics among others.
In addition to helping detect cancer early, your dermatologist can treat other various skin health problems—psoriasis, acne, hair loss, and hives—and carry out cosmetic procedures such as wart removal and scar removal.
How often should you see your dermatologist?
Visit your dermatologist at least once a year for a full body examination. These annual visits are necessary even if you're healthy and have no history of skin cancer. We at Dermatology Consultants of Frisco recommend more frequent visits depending on the result of the examination.
It's advisable for certain people to visit their dermatologist more frequently. These include:
- People with a history of skin cancer
- People with close relatives who suffer from skin cancer
- People with suspicious growths or moles on their skin
- People who received x-ray acne treatment in their youth
- People with extremely fair skin tones
Risk factors for skin cancer
Age and gender play a role in the risk of skin cancer. Older people are at a higher risk because of how long they have been exposed to UV radiation. But younger people who get frequent sunburns because of continual exposure to the sun are at high risk of getting skin cancer.
The risk of squamous cell carcinomas is three times higher in males than females. Males are also twice as likely to develop basal cell carcinomas as women.
Conditions such as diseases and immune suppression related to organ transplants also heighten the risk of skin cancer. For example, basal cell nevus syndrome and human papilloma virus (HPV) infections increase the risk of developing carcinomas.
Previous treatment for certain conditions sometimes causes skin cancer. Psoriasis treatment involving a combination of UV light treatment, a natural remedy, and psoralen increases carcinoma risk. Same goes for radiation treatment.
Genetic risk factors like inherited conditions and a personal or family history of skin cancer increase your risk of developing skin cancer. So can lifestyle choices such as smoking and excessive UV exposure due to spending a lot of time outdoors in the sun.
Your dermatologist will take into account all the above risk factors and advice you on the proper steps to take to decrease your chances of developing skin cancer.
When to schedule an emergency visit
Dermatological emergencies are rare, but it's important to know them because they are potentially fatal. Examples of such emergencies include bacterial and viral infections.
Bacterial infections such as erysipelas and cellulitis warrant an immediate trip to your dermatologist's office. Erysipelas is a Streptococcus pyogenes infection of the superficial dermis, and cellulitis is a Staphylococcus aureus infection of the deep dermis.
The herpes simplex virus causes eczema herpeticum, which often occurs on the face around the eyes. In extreme cases, the condition can lead to severe conditions (e.g., hepatitis, encephalitis, and keratoconjunctivitis) or even death.
In case of any severe symptoms on your skin, call a qualified dermatologist in the DFW area immediately.